Thirty-first Sunday | Year B
Mark 12: 28-34
One of the scribes came up to Jesus and put a question to him, ‘Which is the first of all the commandments?” Jesus replied, ‘This is the first: Listen, Israel, the Lord our God is the one Lord, and you must love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind and all your strength. The second is this: You must love your neighbour as yourself. There is no commandment greater than these.’ The scribe said to him, ‘Well spoken, Master; what you have said is true: that he is one and there is no other. To love with all your heart, with all your understanding and strength and to love your neighbour as yourself, this is far more important than any holocaust or sacrifice.’ Jesus, seeing how wisely he had spoken said, ‘You are not far from the kingdom of God.’ And after that no one dared to question him anymore.
The scribe understood that loving God and neighbour was a true interpretation of the law, which had completely escaped other Jewish leaders who emphasized ritual actions such as sacrifices. “Do this and this and this, and you will please God” was their line of reasoning, and the actions multiplied the burden on the people. The decrees of the leaders were profoundly unloving, and corrupted by their own ambition and desire for power.
Twenty-four hours a day a similar instruction “Do this and this and this and you will be happy” is issued by the media through advertising. Advertising can be colourful and even fun, and some ads are entertaining (at least the first time we see them). But the insistent messages can create a burden which lurks below our consciousness, pushing us towards actions that might make us happier, thinner, younger, save us work, impress others, or provide good experiences. Most of these actions involve buying something.
There are some stunning and mind-opening programmes on television. They might reveal the wonder of creation, or expose the desperate situation of people in need, or profile truly amazing people or display great human works of art or science. There is a possibility that they will – just sometimes – lift our hearts to God or draw forth compassion for our neighbour. But they are always accompanied by messages to the effect that certain actions will bring happiness.
Loving God and others, in all the myriads of ways we can do this, is the true source of deep happiness and true peace. It will not always be easy, but it is an expression of our nature at its deepest level.
The test for any advertisement is simple: Will doing what this advertisement is exhorting me to do help me to love God and to love others?